The TOI campaign on the passport logjam has made the government put reforms on the fast track. In an unprecedented move, the ministry of external affairs on Thursday announced a ‘Passport Mela’ this weekend at many PSKs countrywide – the kendras will remain open on Saturday and Sunday and people can just walk in, without an appointment. This practice will continue till the entire backlog has been cleared.
In a special briefing to TOI, Raghavendra Shastry, adviser to external affairs minister S M Krishna, gave details of fresh measures that are expected to address the concerns raised by the people – and reported by this newspaper to help make the new passport application process smoother and transparent.
The ministry has also reviewed the online appointment process, and from Friday, an additional 30% slots are being released. This will take the number of daily slots in the capital from 1,650 to 2,050. Moreover, appointments will now be given for up to 30 days instead of 15. “This way, we believe we will be able to process 6 lakh applications in the country this year,” said chief passport officer and joint secretary in MEA Muktesh Kumar Pardeshi.
“We have taken the suggestions given by TOI seriously and want people to know that we are working hard on them. There has been a huge backlog of applications due to the holiday rush, which is why we are having this passport mela. MEA is doing it for the first time in the country. This will help us smoothen the service in about six weeks from now,” said Shastry.
“We will entertain walk-ins only on weekends. And people need not form queues early in the morning. They can come anytime after 10am,” said Basant K Gupta, additional secretary, consular passport & visa division, MEA.
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